Themes in Virginia Woolf’s “The Lighthouse”
Choose 2 questions from below. For each question, write a 1 page response using the text as evidence. You must include quotes, summaries, and paraphrases of the text. These are short essays, so get to the point. Don’t spend too much time on an introduction. Answer the questions directly.
1) Based on both evidence from the text and your literary opinion, provide a feminist analysis on what you believe about Mrs. Ramsey’s constant effort to reach out and offer help to others.
2) Based on evidence from the text and your literary opinion, provide an analysis on what you feel to be the significance of the ocean thus far? What does it symbolize? How does it add to the tension of the text?
3) Based on both evidence from the text and your literary opinion, provide a feminist and queer analysis on Lily. Why is Lily fixated on her painting? What does the painting represent? What is Lily’s fixation on Mrs. Ramsey?
4) Based on both evidence from the text and your literary opinion, provide a feminist analysis on Mr. and Mrs. Ramsey’s relationship. What is the dynamic? Who has power? Are they in love?
5) Based on both evidence from the text and your literary opinion, provide a feminist analysis of Mrs. Ramsey. How do others perceive her? How does she perceive herself? Who is she, beyond mother and wife?
6) Based on both evidence from the text and your literary opinion, write an analysis on the relationship dynamic between James and Mr. Ramsey.
7) Based on both evidence from the text and your literary opinion, write an analysis on the image of the lighthouse. What does it represent?
8) “It was in that moment’s flight between the picture and her canvas that the demons set on her who often brought her to the verge of tears and made this passage from conception to work as dreadful as any down a dark passage for a child.” (p. 17)
How do sexuality and gender identity come into play when explaining this description of Lily’s thoughts about her art?
9) What aspects of Mrs. Ramsay’s life are in constant conflict?
10) From Mrs. Ramsay’s perspective, what role does she play in her family and friends? What do the other characters think Mrs. Ramsay’s role is?
11) Who is the most consequential character of the novel other than Mrs. Ramsay?
12) Is there a purpose to Woolf’s writing style? Does it symbolize something? Get an idea across? Give off a certain effect to the reader?
13) What motivates Mrs. Ramsay to be so cordial with her friends and family?
14) Why does being queer and seeking family structure/stability seem to be at odds with each other?
15) How do the husbands personal philosphies and/or inner turmoil in both the Yellow Wallpaper and To the Lighthouse affect the well being of their wives? How do gender politics of the time exacerbate that effect?
16) How would the narrative of The Yellow Wallpaper change if it were written from John
17) In both stories, there seems to be a heavy emphasis on the influence of society and how one must appear to others. Just from the top of my head, the narrator in The Yellow Wall Paper has the need to hide her writing and Mrs. Ramsay early on in To The Lighthouse feels the need to say she is “making the great expedition” into town despite thinking to herself immediately before that it is simply “a dull errand in town.” How does society’s influence perhaps subconsciously influence individuals?